Washburn teacher recognized for mental health work
TANGLETOWN — Washburn High School teacher Rod Martel was recognized for his innovative work with special education students by the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health [MACMH].
A 28-year veteran special education teacher with Minneapolis Public Schools, Martell received the Outstanding Service Award for educators at an MACMH benefit in St. Paul Nov. 7. The award, which also has a category for physicians, recognizes outstanding achievement in the field of children’s mental health.
“The award feels pretty good for me because I’m a licensed psychologist, also,” Martell said, noting that special education melds his previous career in psychology with his current work in education.
About six years ago, Martell began asking his special education students to keep a journal. That was just one of the innovative teaching techniques that earned him the award.
“I have kids write to me every single day, and I write back to them every single day,” Martell said.
He said the process can be “exhausting,” but it helps him form closer relationships with his students.
“It makes them feel like there’s one person in the school every single day they can talk to and connect to,” he said. “They tell me everything.”
Martell spent six years working with special education students at Uptown Academy before starting at Washburn this fall. Uptown Academy was an alternative high school program for students far behind in credits that closed at the end of last school year.
Martell said his own struggles in school inspired him to work in special education for nearly three decades.
Kids pick Obama
Barack Obama won Minneapolis’ school-aged demographic by a landslide, Kids Voting Minneapolis reported.
Over 7,100 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade went to the polls with their parents Nov. 4, giving Obama 87 percent of the vote and John McCain just less than 10 percent. It was the second time Kids Voting Minneapolis had youth aged 5-–17 cast a ballot in a presidential election.
The Kids Voting USA is a national movement to encourage civic engagement among young people by offering a nonpartisan curriculum in schools and promoting Election Day participation.
The national organization was founded in 1988 in a Phoenix suburb and since then has expanded to 25 states and Washington, D.C. The program expanded to Minneapolis in 2004, and also held youth election events this year in Duluth, Virginia and St. Paul.
Kids Voting Minneapolis Executive Director Roberta Worrell said turnout this year was down slightly from 2004, but higher than 2006.
Worrell said the organization’s major accomplishment was to station Kids Voting volunteers in all of the city’s precincts, except for two — Coffman Union on the University of Minnesota campus and Minnesota Veterans Homes-Minneapolis — where there are no children. Over 600 volunteers participated.
Minneapolis Public Schools endorsed the Kids Voting USA classroom curriculum, but use of the curriculum was not mandatory, she said.
Nationwide, the youth who participated in Kids Voting USA also chose Obama over McCain, though by a smaller margin: 62 percent for Obama to McCain’s 34 percent.
In Minneapolis, youth also picked Democrat Al Franken (65 percent) for U.S. senator over GOP incumbent Norm Coleman (19 percent) and the Independence Party’s Dean Barkley (9 percent).
Budget committee recruiting
A committee of Minneapolis residents that advises on the Minneapolis Public Schools budget is looking for new members this fall.
The Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee [CBAC] meets monthly between October and June to discuss budget issues and advise the school board on spending. Membership is open to any Minneapolis taxpayer as well as the parents of district students and district employees.
CBAC Chairman Eli Kaplan said key issues this year included ongoing 2009–2010 budget planning, potential changes in funding allocations to individual schools and spending related to the district’s five-year strategic plan.
Kaplan said the committee typically met once a month on the first or second Wednesday, with additional meetings as necessary. Peggy Ingison, the district’s chief financial officer, attends most meetings, he added.
Area C parent meeting Nov. 20
The next Area C Parent Advisory Council meeting was set for 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Lake Nokomis Community School Wenonah Campus, 5625 23rd Ave. S.
Agenda items for the meeting included a discussion of facilities and capacity planning in Area C, a portion of the Minneapolis Public Schools district that includes all of Southwest and parts of South Minneapolis. Also scheduled were a review of the results of the schools referendum and a question-and-answer session with Assistant Supt. Marianne Norris.
There was no Area C Parent Advisory Council meeting scheduled for December.